Venango County voting machines tested

Venango County election officials held a public voting machine testing Friday morning in the Courthouse Annex in preparation for Tuesday’s general election that features high-profile races for governor and a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania.

The testing drew a record turnout of six people, not counting the elections officials and county commissioners, and commissioner Mike Dulaney thanked everyone who showed up.

County elections director Sabrina Backer unlocked one of the machines, and several practice ballots were cast to ensure the machine was working correctly. Then the machine was closed up and won’t be reopened until Tuesday.

The practice ballots that were cast Friday won’t be counted.

Then Backer tested the county’s new high speed scanner that will be used to tabulate the mail-in and absentee ballots Tuesday at the courthouse.

The scanner tabulated a stack of several hundred ballots in a matter of minutes during the test.

Backer noted and then demonstrated that ballots that have been folded or bent will still go through the scanner without any problem.

The scanner has three trays that the ballots will be sorted into as they are scanned — one tray for the ballots filled out in a unclear way or overvoted, one for blank ballots and one for all the ballots that have been properly filled out, Backer said.

A total of 4,074 mail-in ballots have been sent out for this election, according to elections coordinator Melanie Bailey. She added that the county is still waiting to have 750 mail-in ballots returned as of Friday.

In the fall of 2020 leading up to the Trump-Biden presidential election, Venango County sent out close to 8,000 mail-in ballots.

If all goes according to plan Tuesday, Backer said all the mail-in ballots will be taken out of the envelopes and scanned by noon or 1 p.m. The mail-in ballot results won’t be tabulated until after 8 p.m. when the polls close.

The county is tightening up its process for handling mail-in and absentee ballots for this election, Backer said.

“If your job is to open ballots, you will not get up to get ballots, to keep anything from getting mixed up,” she said.

“We appreciate our poll workers so this year we gave them each a lanyard that says Venango County election official, a laminated name tag and an American flag pin for every five years they have worked the polls,” Backer said.

The lanyards and name tags were received “with applause” for the poll workers, she added.

Bailey said the county gave out nearly 200 American flag pins to the county’s 225 poll workers.

Venango County’s longest serving poll worker has been volunteering for 45 years and the oldest poll worker in the county is 92, Bailey said.

Two polling places have changed as the Rouseville precinct has been moved to the borough building at 64 Main St. and the Oil City 1 polling place has been moved to First Presbyterian Church at 215 East Bissell Ave.


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